Traditionally, most counselling and psychotherapy sessions have relied on in-person meetings with therapists. With recent developments in technology, as well as a global pandemic creating a need to find other ways to do counselling, the shift to video and phone therapy (aka telehealth/ virtual therapy) has been significant. This change is widely understood to make therapy more accessible, as clients can see their provider from literally anywhere. However, many people have expressed concerns over how effective therapy delivered remotely can be, and questioned the ability to develop a healthy rapport with a counsellor through a screen or phone line. However, research is consistently showing that clients get the same outcomes whether seeing a therapist virtually or in-person. For example:
Research on internet based therapy since 1990 has produced more than 200 randomized trials indicating that virtual therapy is as effective as face-to-face, for conditions such as depression, anxiety, procrastination, perfectionism, panic disorder, social phobia, erectile dysfunction, chronic pain, and many other psychiatric and somatic conditions (as cited in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 2017).
Social Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Depressive Symptoms, Body Dissatisfaction, Tinnitus, Male Sexual Dysfunction, and Fibromyalgia interventions had equivalent or slightly greater efficacy when delivered virtually. Insomnia, Spider Phobia, and Snake Phobia had non-significant differences in efficacy (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 2017).
Telepsychology interventions for depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and adjustment disorder are effective as well as, "provide a mode of treatment delivery that can potentially overcome barriers and increase access to psychological interventions," (Psychological Services®, 2019).
Depression treated by CBT therapy is equally effective outcomes for in-person and virtual groups (Journal of Affective Disorders, 2014).
Virtual treatment for major depression, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder or generalised anxiety disorder was found to be equally "effective, acceptable and practical health care," as face-to-face (Journal of Psychological Disorders, 2018).
Of course, relying on technology can mean there are moments where a video freezes or glitches, or where something said is missed. And clients bear the responsibility of specifically telling the therapist any physiological changes they are experiencing; not being in a room together means the counsellor may not notice changes in breathing patterns, sweating, shaking of the the body, and so on. However, with good rapport and clarity around expectations, these concerns can be mitigated well.
At Thea Megas Counselling, we use a secure and encrypted video-conference platform or phone to provide a service that is accessible as well as complies with local privacy regulations. Our clients report these methods are easy to access, and are able to receive high-quality care from the comfort and privacy of their own homes (or in some cases while out on a walk, for example). The hardest part to adjust to seems to be the super obtrusive headsets!
If you are thinking about counselling, but not sure if online counselling or phone counselling would work for you, book in for a free consultation to test the platform and see how it feels. Sometimes, that's all we need to get started on something that can seem uncomfortable, intimidating, or awkward - we just need to trial it and everything comes together.
Hope to see you soon!